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Reparations for Haiti

At the Tribune, Oscar Avila writes about the historic debt many African Americans feel to Haiti for its historic and heroic role in overthrowing slavery.

At Commondreams, Bill Quigley of the Center for Constitutional Rights takes it a bit further.  The United States owes Haiti billions of dollars in reparations, he argues.

After the Haitian revolution, the U.S. instituted an embargo that lasted from 1804 to 1863.  Haiti was forced to turn to U.S. banks for loans to pay 90 million francs in indemnification for the value of freed slaves, which was demanded by French warships in 1825. (One U.S. bank loan was finally paid off in 1947.) The current value of the total paid to France and to U.S. banks, Quigley writes, is $20 billion.

The U.S. (under Woodrow Wilson, who made great speeches about self-determination) invaded Haiti in 1915 and occupied the country until 1934, controlling customs, collecting taxes, and killing many thousands who resisted occupation.  From 1957 to 1986 the U.S. backed the Duvalier kleptocracy.  After Baby Doc was expelled, an IMF loan (to pay off the family’s raids on the treasury) was conditioned on Haiti opening its markets; cheap rice from Florida flooded the country and wiped out its agricultural sector.

Haiti used to feed itself.  Today, thanks to the IMF, it imports nearly all its rice and sugar.

And George W. Bush, who backed the overthrow of Haiti’s elected president in 2004 (against the counsel of Colin Powell) has been appointed co-chair of U.S. relief efforts.  What they say is true: be careful of frauds.

Now CCR and other groups are calling for grounding relief efforts in human rights principles.

“The magnitude of the catastrophe is not entirely a result of natural disaster but rather, a history of deliberate impoverishment and disempowerment of the Haitian people through a series of misguided polices,” said Brian Concannon Jr. of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

“Lack of donor accountability and continued aid volatility will only guarantee even greater suffering,” he said.

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Category: history, human rights, international

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3 Responses

  1. Kreoyol says:

    Hi, I go by the name “Kreyol” I would like to say thank you first, and I would like to know what is needed to get back from our past and present oppressors to get back the means which have been stolen from us ( Haitians) I am a singer/song and storyteller, I for a long time wondered how I can help the situation in my country so I would like to be involved. I have a video on youtube “PA KRIYE POU MWEN AYITI” the song is in kreyol but with subtitle in english. this week I will record a song in regard to the same subject your article is about. once I do i would like to have you listen to it. I leave you in peace!

    my regards,

    kreyol

  2. Curtis says:

    Thanks, Kreyol – I found your video to be moving and powerful, and would recommend it to other readers:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ly1E2GuCsZw

    In (one possible) answer to your question, please see our more recent post, “Debt relieef for Haiti”:

    http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=1261

    Please let us know when your new song is available!

  3. Kennyb says:

    Ayiti (ode to a beautiful lady)
    © 2007 Kenneth Hugh Burton

    You favor our mother
    and you have her spirit
    her persistence her inner strength

    And your brother Toussaint
    your brother in arms is remembered
    That is why they hate you

    Your former suitors have no sympathy for you
    but caste you in rags and deem you untouchable
    though you are beautiful to be admired

    Your skin bathes in sunshine
    and glows swarthy rich as coffee
    and you are sweet as sugarcane

    You are like Lylith and Hero
    who will be loved on your terms
    and there is none who should be your rival

    but You favor our mother
    and you have her spirit
    her persistence her inner strength

    You remember the old ways
    the God of our mother
    and you would not change your name

    And strength is in your voice as well
    You proudly proclaim
    “L’Union Fait La Force”

    and you proudly stand
    in beautiful colours
    like the blue sky and red blood

    Petite and grand you are
    though your former suitors
    will not forgive nor forget
    their humbling at your hands

    for you favor our mother
    and you have her spirit
    her persistence her inner strength


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